Timothy Ponrathnam was born and raised in Pune, India, where he studied polymer engineering and received a Bachelor of Engineering degree. His father worked as a polymer scientist at "one of India's premier R&D organizations," Ponrathnam said.
Ponrathnam graduated from the University of Massachusetts-Lowell with a master's degree in chemistry and doctorate in plastics engineering.
"While I enjoyed chemistry growing up, it was primarily … due to my father's influence that I decided to specialize in polymer engineering," Ponrathnam, 33, said in his Rising Stars survey. "I enjoy working in an industry wherein the packaging we manufacture have a clear, tangible role in protecting products as they are delivered to the consumer."
At UMass-Lowell, Ponrathnam was a teaching assistant and graduate research assistant. Then, he joined Evansville, Ind.-based Berry Global Inc. in March 2015 as a research and development material scientist. Now, he is a material scientist in the Berry Consumer Packaging division.
In the future, he would like to become director of research and development for a company. If he were the leader of an organization, his first order of business would be to build a good team of leaders around himself.
Growing up, his father was his role model. At Berry, Ponrathnam looks up to Jason Paladino, vice president of application development.
"I respect the way he carries himself," Ponrathnam said. "He is an excellent leader, mentor and communicator who is equally adept at talking with technicians as he is in communicating with [the] CEO."
As well, he admires Debra Wilson, R&D material science director.
"She has a wealth of knowledge and is someone I can always go to if I need guidance," he said.
Ponrathnam said he surprised by the negative perception surrounding the industry.
"To address this, at Berry, our CEO Tom Salmon has introduced the Plastics Ambassadors program encouraging the industry to take a more collaborative role in educating consumers of the benefits plastics can provide," he said. "Together as an industry, we need to collaborate and try to create plans to address the problems created by improper waste disposal practices."
While Ponrathnam said his biggest failure was being involved in a development program that was ultimately discontinued due to the price point — it taught him that "understanding potential customer cost targets at the outset of any development program is key" — his biggest accomplishment has been "successfully developing with internal and external partners a novel material solution that provided a package with better barrier properties while allowing reduction in overall material usage."
His current challenge at work is communicating with different people in diverse roles and educational backgrounds. To deal with this, he said developing effective communication has been key in getting his ideas across and getting the most out of the team he has been involved with.
Ponrathnam is involved with the Society of Plastics Engineers, and he hopes to get involved with its NextGen Advisory Board. He also speaks English, Hindi, German and Tamil.
When he's not at Berry, Ponrathnam enjoys spending time with his wife, Patricia, and 16-month-old "ball of energy" daughter, Trisha.